Saturday, November 15, 2014

Busy in Belize


We have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to post anything so I'm going to try to catch up.  One of our young men from the Belize City branch finally received his visa to go the Dominican Republic to enter the MTC there to begin his mission.  He has actually been serving here in Belize for almost 2 months while he waited.  He was in the west of the country serving with the missionaries in San Ignacio.  We went to the airport with him and his family.  The branch president, President Woods, went, too.  Elder Mis was very excited to finally be getting on his way to his assigned mission.


                          Elder Tague, Elder Mis, and Sister Tague at the Belize airport.


President Woods, Elder Mis's little brother, Sister Mis, Elder Mis, Elder Mis's step father, and Elder. Mis's sister.

We have another young man from Dangriga who is also waiting for his visa to leave for his mission.  He has been called to the Paraguay Mission but his MTC is in Argentina.  He has to get 2 visas, one for each country, and that is taking even longer than expected.  He is currently serving with our missionaries in Orange Walk Town.  

We have had a fun excursion with the missionaries.  We took the Corozal Zone to the Cerros Mayos ruins across the Corozal Bay.  We took a boat ride across the bay which was really fun. The site was very interesting.  The feeling that Elder Tague and I had there was different from the others that we have experienced.  Only one small building has been excavated and part of another larger one.  The rest remain large hills and mounds that you walk through.  They surround you and you just feel their presence.  It felt like if you looked just the right way, you might see one of the ancient inhabitants out of the corner of your eye.  

The trail that you take through the ruins is very aptly named "Mosquito Trail".  You literally almost breathe mosquitos, there are so many.  We were slathered in insect repellent but we had a really good time. 

                                           Elder and Sister Tague on the boat

                                                     Arriving at the site.

                                         The one excavation that was completed. 
The Corozal Zone left to right: Elder Santillan, behind him, Elder Aguilar, behind him, Elder Haynie, seated, Elder Paulson, behind him, Elder Castro, behind him, Sister Call, Sister McCulloch, Sister Wood, Sister Ferreras, Elder Grigg, Sister Hunter, Sister Patterson.

               The backside of the tallest mound which is partly excavated on the other side.
                                                A panoramic view of the area
                                                   And another panorama.

On  Friday, September 19th, we had another important visitor who came for a multi-zone conference.  The second counselor in the Area Presidency, Elder Alonso, came to teach us.  He is amazing!  We met in the west of the country in San Ignacio, Cayo District.  It was quite a logistical feat to get all the missionaries from our northern areas out to Cayo on time.  Elder Tague and I each drove a car up to Corozal to bring all of the missionaries from Corozal and Orange Walk.  Elder Tague drove the mission van which seats 12 and I drove the pickup which seats 5.  Four of the sisters rode with me and the remaining four sisters and six elders rode with Elder Tague.  We drove up the night before and stayed in a hotel in Corozal so that we could start picking up the missionaries at 4:30 on Friday morning.  Then we drove to Orange Walk which is 45 minutes down the road.  It is another 3 hours from there to San Ignacio and we needed to be there at 8:30. We made it on time.  We had time to eat the breakfast that was provided and then we all assembled for a spiritual feast at the conference.  

Elder Alonso has been given a spiritual gift of being able to see the light of Christ or lack of it in people's eyes.  Before the meeting began, we were all asked to come up one by one and shake his hand.  He looked into every person's eyes carefully as we shook hands with him and introduced ourselves.  Afterwards, when we were all seated again, he told us why he asked us to come up and shake his hand.  It was humbling.

He spoke of how we represent Jesus Christ and invite people to come unto him.  He asked us to truly examine our lives and examples.  How do our actions reflect upon Jesus Christ?  Do we always remember Him?  What place does Jesus have in our lives?  We had a lot to ponder after this conference.


The first row from l to r:  Elder and Sister Tague, Elder and Sister Mendenhall, Brother Alden,     Sister and President Alonso, President Hintze, Sister and Elder Rinderknecht.

Clockwise from top right:  Sister Patterson and Sister Hunter; Sister Gramajo receiving here English proficiency certificate from President Hintze; Sister Wood, Sister Ferreras, Sister Smith, Sister Gramajo, Sister Tague in the truck; Sister Montes, Sister Olalere, Sister Smith, and. Sister Call.

After the conference, they brought in lunch for everybody and then we all piled into the cars again and started the long drive back to Orange Walk and Corozal.  We arrived at our hotel that night around 8:30, tired but happy.  We drove back to Belize City Saturday morning.  It was a wonderful couple of days.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

VIP Visit

We had the wonderful opportunity to meet and receive counsel from our Area president, Kevin R. Duncan, and his wife and the second counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, Devin G. Durrant, and his wife.  President Hintze and his wife were there, as well.  Some may remember that President Durrant was an All-American basketball player for BYU in 1984 and was drafted to play for the Indiana Pacers and also played for the Phoenix Suns. He is 6ft. 7in. tall.  As you can see from the picture above, we were dwarfed by him.  

What a spiritual treat it was to be taught by these two great men and their wives.  We had a fireside on Wednesday night for everyone in Belize.  The branches in the outermost areas rented buses and brought the members from all over.  There were over 460 people in attendance at the meeting.  The Belize City building was full to overflowing. 

They conducted a very different type of fireside than I have ever been part of.  It was an amazing meeting, totally led by the Spirit.  President Duncan talked to President Hintze on the plane coming over from El Salvador and told him that they were going to change things up a bit.  They had been traveling around Central America visiting the stakes for about 2 weeks.  President Duncan told President Hintze that they were going to teach by the spirit and he would let President Hintze and his wife know what to do during the meeting.  So President Hintze didn't know what to expect.

President Duncan let President Durrant start off with his wife.  They had a white board up in front and portable microphones that some elders would take to people in the congregation who wanted to ask a question or comment.  Then they began teaching from the scriptures.  They were demonstrating the way all teaching should be done, in the Lord's way.  It was really powerful.  Everyone in the room was involved.  It wasn't just a sit down and listen to a speaker kind of meeting.  So many people were touched by the message and felt that their own questions were answered in that meeting.  The members that attended told us that they were truly inspired that night.  All the presidents and their wives participated as they were moved to make comments.  It was very spontaneous and Spirit driven.  We all left uplifted.

                                         President Durrant talking with attendees
The next morning was a special meeting for all the missionaries in Belize.  Before the actual meeting, all the missionariy comapnionships had companionship study and planning sessions like they have every morning.  President Duncan wanted to observe how they were doing with their daily planning.  They all scattered to every nook and cranny in the church building to find a place to plan.  


Then we had the meeting with all the presidents and their wives.  It was also a spiritual feast.  They presented what they call the "Willing and Brief" presentation.  That is to just ask someone if they would be "willing to hear a brief presentation about"... you fill in the blank with something you may have been discussing like families or Jesus Christ and his mission on earth.  It's easy to do and all of us have been able to ask that very question.  It is not threatening and leaves it open for the person to say yes or no without feeling pressured.  It's a great tool.  If the person says yes, you get their contact information and, if you're not a missionary, you give it to the missionaries.  They take it from there.                                                             

After the meeting with the missionaries we had arranged for a catered dinner for everyone.  It was delicious! 


                                                     Then we had time for pictures.

 In the back row we have Gary and me, President Duncan and his wife, President Hintze and his wife, and President Durrant and his wife.  These are the missionaries in the Corozal Zone. Front row left to right: Elders Grigg, Haynie, Paulson, Castro, Santillan, and Aguilar, Second row left to right:  Sisters, Wood, Smith, Gramajo, Patterson, Hunter, McCullouch, and Call.


                                                      This is the Belize City Zone
 Front l to r:  Elders Kilifi, Goodman, Mikkelsen, Gonzalez, and Parkes  2nd row l to r: Elders Martineau, Mapusua, Fridal, Jones, Kapisi, Schappell, and Lee.  Behind l to r:  Elder Fonoimoana, Elder Coates, Elder Tague (Elder Mapusua is so big he almost completely hides Gary), Me, President Duncan, his wife, Sister Hintze, President Hintze, President Durrant and his wife.


                                        Then we took a picture of all the sisters. 
First row l to r: Sisters Hope, Wood, Smith, Nelson, Gramajo, and Keys.  Second row l to r: Sisters Montes,Slater, Rodriguez, Jensen, Olalere, just behind Sister Olalere is Sister DeLeon, Perez, Hunter, Patterson, behind Sister Hunter are Sisters Call and McCullough. Third row l to r: Me, Sister Rinderknecht, Sister Mendenhall, Sister Duncan, Sister Hintze, and Sister Durrant.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Activities in Belize

We have had some really fun activities with the youth and primary in our district recently. On August 1 & 2, the youth traveled to Corozal for a 2-day campout in a ranch outside of Corozal.  There were about 50 youth participating.  After they set up all the tents and had lunch, they played games and had relay races.  

The first one was played in couples.  One person would hold his or her arms like a basketball hoop and the other would try to throw a ball through it.  Then they would have to take 4 steps ahead and do it again.  When they finished the next couple would start until the whole team finished.  It was pretty chaotic. 


They had something that I have never seen before. It was like a giant exercise elastic stretch band.  Four people would get inside and then one person would run to the opposite side.  Each would take turns or go all at once. It was pretty wild.  They would get all tangled up and finally either stop or fall over.  The pictures I have below are with President Woods, the Belize City branch president and some of the boys.  President Woods is the one with the baseball cap.


That evening, President Hintze and his wife gave a fireside for the group.  It was really good, encouraging them to be good examples and share the gospel.  
                                                               Sister Hintze

                                                            President Hintze

                                                       The group gathering

The next day they had a devotional after breakfast and then started tearing down the camp.  It was really hot and humid and the kids were pretty thirsty so someone went to get them some water since they had already gone through all the water that was brought due to the extreme heat.  But all went well and they were very cheerful and busy. 


                           Faces of our Belize City Branch and Cinderella Branch Youth


              Finally, it was time for everyone to load up the bus and go home.  It was a very successful youth camp and they are all looking forward to next year.


On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, we went to Orange Walk where they were having a branch water festival for the Primary.  It was a perfect day, not too hot, a little overcast but just right for some water fun.  

They set up an obstacle course with several events.  They started out running thorugh tires, then crawling between two long pieces of plastic, next running along a narrow board that was slippery and wet, and finally diving onto a plastic sheet like a slip-and-slide that was being constantly watered with a hose and sliding to the end.  They were being timed and the fastest time won.  These are some pictures of the Sisters running the course.
                                               Sister Wood makes it through the tires.

                                          Sister Huff emerges from the long plastic tunnel.

                                                  Sister Huff races across the board.

                                                      Sister Wood slides to the end.
They had a White piece of plastic stretched between two poles and the kids had a water balloon volleyball game .  There was a cute swimming pool for the little ones.

This activity was a huge success and there were several investigator families attendingso a lot of fellowshipping was going on.  There are some more activities planned for the near future.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Helping fire victims in San Pedro


Last week there was a fire in a residential area of San Pedro on Abergris Caye.  Six homes burned completely to the ground and 18 people are now without a place to live.  The homes were primarily wooden.  Some were two-story but most were a single level.  The only remnants left are the outside walls of one or two that were cement blocks and a cement staircase that now rises to nowhere.

The church in Belize had some food storage available for emergencies so the elders on the island arranged with the mayor to donate what we had.  The company that owns the water taxi to the Cayes transported the cases of food at no charge which was greatly appreciated.  

Elder Tague and I flew over on Saturday, July 12, 2014 to assist in the distribution of the food.  The area of the fire has still not been completely cleared.  Some of the families had relatives or friends that have been able to take them in but some are still living in what is left of the remaining buildings among the rubble.  They are completely destitute. 

Here are some pictures of the area with the elders bringing in the food.






                                       This family is living in the shack in the background.

No member families were involved in this tragedy but one family had been working with the missionaries, investigating the church.  We will be keeping in touch with the missionaries to know how the families are doing and if we can assist further.

On a brighter note, the next day, Sunday, July 13, was our 46th anniversary.  We took the picture at the top to commemorate the day.  We attended the branch where I again spoke and translated for myself.  It gets a little confusing when you start out saying a few sentences in one language and then stop and translate what you just said into another language.  It cuts into your train of thought. But it went well.   Of course, Elder Tague was the main speaker.  These branches are always excited to hear from the visiting "authorities".  It's also a little weird to realize that we are those authorities.

There was another baptism after church.  Saturday, Elder Tague had the priviledge of interviewing the mother who was going to be baptised.  She is of pure Mayan descent.  Her family traces back through many generations of Mayans.  She was baptised along with her daughter.  It was a wonderful experience.




The branch is growing and there is a really sweet spirit there.  There were about 75 in attendance at the meetings that day.  The attendance can vary considerably since San Pedro is such a tourist town.  There were several people vacationing from the states there on Sunday.  It's always kind of an adventure to go to the island.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New Responsibilities

                                       Elder Tague in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

On May 21, 2014, Elder Tague was set apart as the second counselor in the El Salvador San Salvador West/Belize Mission Presidency.  Needless to say, our activity level has grown considerably.  He is responsible for the Belize City District which consists of five branches in the east and north of the country: Belize City Branch, Cinderella Branch (Spanish branch in Belize City), San Pedro Branch, Orange Walk Branch, and Corozal Branch.  We are only in our home branches in Belize City once a month now.  Every week we are travelling to one of the other branches.  

Our first official visit was to the branch in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.  We took a little 4-seater plane to the island which only took 20 minutes.  There is a water taxi that goes to the island but it is a 1 1/2 hour ride and the seats are hard.  On Sunday, the water taxi doesn't get there in time for the beginning of the meetings.  The little plane was not only a fun adventure but a necessity.

                                                The pilot's panel of guages

                                                            Elder Tague, co-pilot

We arrived in plenty of time for the meetings.  There were about 65 people in attendance.  It's a mixed group of Spanish speakers and English speakers so the meeting is conducted in both languages.  Surprise! Elder and Sister Tague became the main speakers.  We had not planned anything but since it was our first official visit, they decided to change their program.  It was a case of extemporaneous talks.  I took a leap of faith and spoke in both Spanish and English, translating for myself.  Amazingly, it went quite well.  (The Lord does bless missionaries with the gift of tongues).  One of the Elders translated for Elder Tague.  It was a very good meeting.  After church, there was a baptism which was again performed at the beach.  

                                                          The church in San Pedro

                                                                     The baptism

We stayed over night in San Pedro because the Elders there needed to find a new apartment.  Their landlord decided he didn't want to rent to missionaries for some reason.  We stayed at a small hotel right on the beach where the sea breeze was refreshing and the view was lovely.


                                                     Outside our hotel door.

              The view of our hotel from the pier.  Our hotel room was in the building on the right.                                                       

We spent Monday working with the Elders and looking for a new place for them to live.  The most common mode of transportation on the island is the golf cart.  There are golf cart rental places every 2 feet it seems like.  We rented one, of course. There are lots of bicycles, some motorcycles, and some delivery trucks. The only other vehicles on the roads were the ever present taxis.  These were usually SUV's.  The streets are narrow and the actual cars and trucks were almost too big.  The missionaries ride bikes.

                                                      Following the missionaries 

We are still negotiating a new home for the Elders.  We have some good possibilities but the contract  has to be accepted by the mission legal office so we are waiting for the paperwork to be completed.

There was an Elder in Orange Walk who was leaving for his mission in the Virgin Islands on Saturday, May 31.  We went to Orange Walk on Friday for Elder Tague to set him apart for his mission.  That was another first for Elder Tague.  We are going to really enjoy getting to know the people in all the branches in our district.  There are so many wonderful people here and we feel priviledged to be able to associate with all of them.